Petition to release caged orangutan gains momentum

COMMUNITY members have come out in their numbers in response to a media statement released by The Kloof and Highway SPCA asking for support for the rescue of a 36-year-old circus orangutan that is living under extreme conditions at The Natal Zoological Gardens.

According to the statement issued by Cheri Cooke of the SPCA, Brian Boswell, of Boswell Circus, owns the zoo, which is just outside Pietermaritzburg, where the public, for a fee, can see a variety of caged animals.

“As an inspector at the Kloof and Highway SPCA, I have been involved in assessing the well-being of the caged animals at this zoo. This task never fails to wrench my emotions, leaving me desperate to find some refuge­ for them, which would allow a far better quality of life. At the very least, a semblance of nature,” she said.

“Opal is the most heart-wrenching of all. She is a 36-year- old orangutan. As a species, they rank among the most intelligent of all primates and have adapted to an incredible variety of stimulating, challenging and changing elements in their treetop jungle homes.”

However, Cooke said that for Opal, nothing of this natural life exists.
“Each day she is released from her sleeping cage into her daytime cell. There, on a meagre patch of grass with a makeshift ‘jungle gym’ of poles, she spends every day of her life. Alone. Her response to this heartlessly barren confinement, when she can take no more and has no hope of privacy or escape, is to fling her own dung at the people watching her degradation.

“I have pleaded with Mr Boswell to release her to a dedicated primate sanctuary. I have appealed to sanctuaries worldwide, and there is a place for Opal - they wait for her with open arms. She will be cared for by teams of experts in the field of socialising apes, which have lived lives of isolated misery, but Mr Boswell refuses to let her go. He argues matters of climate and inability to accept others of her kind.” Cooke appealed to the public far and wide to respond with outrage over Opal's tragedy.
“Help her, help us to put an end to this life of misery. Teachers and parents be mindful not to teach children that this way of life is by any means normal for any creature. This is not education, but the lining of a pocket at the expense of the voiceless – it should not be supported or condoned.”

Messages of support flooded the SPCA social media sights, and community members started a petition to free the primate from these conditions.
Some messages read: “The only way we can respect ourselves is by respecting all God's creatures!! Stop the cruelty, let her spend at least the last years of her life as nature intended!” “Free Opal from these inhumane confines and retire her to a reputable sanctuary. Leave the wild in the wild. I don’t see people kept in cages and we are no more than any animal. They should be free as God intended.”

To find out more, contact Cooke on 031 764 1212 or email outreach@

Boswell was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

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